Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 246

13th Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion 10am CW

14th September 2014

Bible References :

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Prayer to Start

 

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

AMEN

 

INTRODUCTION

 

There was a man who was mad about dogs – he really loved them – devoted his life to them – read about them – gave talks on them –

 

Until one day he decided to lay some new cement in his drive – he had just smoothed out the last corner of the wet cement – when a large dog appeared – and walked all over it –

 

He smoothed it off again – went inside to get some string so he could put a fence around it – and discovered more dog tracks –

 

He did this three more times and each time he found dog tracks in his freshly laid cement –

 

This made him really angry – and when he saw the dog coming he started to chase the dog – down the street –

 

His neighour was watching all this and called out, ‘thought you loves dogs’. ‘I do’ said the man – ‘in the abstract – but not in the concrete’

 

Point 1

 

That’s how many of us feel about the subject of our Gospel reading this morning – we love to hear and talk about forgiveness – but when it comes close to home – when it comes to doing something concrete – we find it difficult to do –

 

Forgiveness is costly – it’s not easy to ask for forgiveness – and it’s not easy to extend forgiveness to those who’ve wronged us –

 

Forgiveness is not fair – it doesn’t satisfy our need for justice

 

When we decide to forgive someone – it’s not a question of whether they deserve it or not – but about having the grace to show mercy –

 

Asking for or offering forgiveness is about cancelling a debt – completely – and not just once but many times –

 

When Peter asked Jesus how many times – he should forgive someone he got an answer he didn’t expect –

 

Peter was a stickler for numbers – and must have thought that his limit of seven times was a good answer –

 

The rabbis recommend three times as a limit to forgiving someone – the fourth time you could retaliate – they mistakenly taught that God onlt forgives three times-

 

So double the rabbis’ limit plus one would be commendable by human standards – even extravagant –

 

But Jesus’ limit of 490 times shows just how far away our human thinking is from God’s –

 

Unlimited forgiveness – which is what Jesus is talking about  – means that no matter how many times we’ve been wronged – we have to start with that clean slate – every time and despite what has happened before –

 

In our Gospel reading Jesus gives us an example where a slave and his family has received forgiveness through the generosity of a King – who he owed money to – but failed to grant forgiveness to a fellow slave – who owed much less money to him –

 

When the king found out – he was naturally furious – and held the man to account for his original debt –

 

The purpose of Jesus’ story is to remind us all – that forgiveness of our sins – by God – is entirely dependent on His grace – and it will be withdrawn – if we in turn – do not pass on that same generous spirit of forgiveness and love to others – that Jesus gives to us –

 

Point 2:       Joseph and his brothers

 

In out OT lesson we have another example – but this time the debt – is not one of money –

 

The story comes right at the end of the book

 

Joseph had been wronged by his brothers – and they were afraid that now he was in a position of power – he would take revenge-

 

They hatched a plan – to try to persuade Joseph to forgive them –

 

Joseph doesn’t respond to their lies – but instead breaks down – and openly shows his love for them – and they to him –

 

Joseph knows he must carry their wrongdoings – as he has been doing for most of his life-

 

He even gives them a justification for him offering his forgiveness – to reassure them –

 

He tells them that he now realizes that God had used the sinful intentions they used on him – to bring good to His people-

 

In other words – He took the most wicked of acts – and turned them into acts that can achieve something –

 

The supreme example for this is of course Jesus Christ – where the wrong inflicted on Him –  and His eventual crucifixion – was used by God – to bring about abundant blessings  – on all those who accept Jesus as their Saviour – and follow His ways –

 

Through Jesus God shows us what forgiveness is and means – and the price that it costs –

 

Through Jesus our Lord and King – our wrongdoings – can be cancelled out completely – and He expects us to cancel out the wrongdoing of those that wrong us –

 

Point 3        Paul – Letter to the Romans

 

Paul in our NT lesson – tells us that we must not judge others – but be open to our own faults and shortcomings –

 

He reminds us that all who believe in Jesus are declared – forgiven – and belong to the people of God –

 

And when we judge them and set ourselves up in God’s place – it’s we who need to ask for forgiveness and – help from God – to change –

 

When we forgive – we are freed from the anger and bitterness – that unforgiving brings –

 

When we do not forgive – we remain bound to the people we cannot forgive –

 

Because we can’t or won’t forgive and forget – every time we see the person – we are reminded of it – and like the wrongdoer – we too become enslaved by the wrongdoing that has occurred

 

Saying sorry – or forgiving someone – can be one of the hardest things to do – it means we have to swallow our pride – overcome our embarrassment – admit that we have been wrong –

 

But Jesus tells us that setting someone free – by forgiving them – gives them an opportunity to begin again

 

And when we forgive others – unconditionally – like Jesus – we too receive a generous heart – and a gracious spirit – and not just the ability to speak of it – but to display the truth of it – in our lives –

 

Ending        Forgiveness and us

 

So today – Do we need to ask someone for forgiveness? Have we wronged a friend or family member?

 

Are we ready to forgive – and cancel a debt – forgiveness is our deepest need and God’s highest achievement.

 

Listen to this poem by Debra Ann Belka:

There is nothing quite like, the power of forgiveness nothings so freeing as letting go of bitterness.

There nothing quite like, forgiving and forgetting undoing the damage done without doubt or regretting.

There is nothing quite like, a heart willing to believe the words ~ I am sorry so peace it can receive.

There is nothing quite like, mending hurt feelings resolving lifelong issues to bring internal healing.

There is nothing quite like, the attitude of humility letting go and letting God bring everlasting stability.

There is nothing quite like, the power of God’s grace the pure joy of release when forgiveness we embrace!

Let us pray                    Amen